Martial Arts are mainly based upon the use of “waza”, mostly translated as “techniques”.
This is in fact only a distant approximation of reality. A technique is the visible part of a waza. I believe that if we use the word “skill”, we are getting closer to the true understanding of “waza”.
Of course “skill” also has several levels, and each level has specific attributes.
Skill and Sub-skills
To give more information on “skill and its sub-skills” we can use an example taken from Tomiki’s Basic Kata (Randori no kata).
Gyaku gamae ate (performed by Senta Yamada)
Same “waza performed by Yoshiomi Inoue
The pictures by Senta Yamada gives you an overal view of Gyaku gamae ate. We can see the basic outline of the technique.
- Opponent or Uke comes forward with arm to symbolize an attack
- Defender or Tori sweeps away the incoming arm
- Tori steps in to close the gap
- Makes contact of Uke’s head
- Moves forward and pushes Uke down
We can neither see nor feel what is actually going on. It’s just a “technicality”.
There are several components of this technique that require training to transition from the technical component to the sub-skill. After enough training of the components, putting together the components to form gyaku gamae ate (waza) is the next challenge.
In Inoue’s video, we can see certain components that are important for him to create a successful gyaku gamae ate.
Another example of gyaku gamae ate by Tetsuro Nariyama brings different components to the foreground.
Nariyama’s power management differs from Inoue’s power usage. However, certain components are similar. Differences are likely influenced by the different body structure.
We cannot merely copy the movements of an instructor with a different body structure, we need to look at the underlying components of the waza.
Randori gyaku gamae ate
During randori other factors need to be in considiration. Opponent is resisting and is also trying to apply a succesfull attack or waza. Practitioners have to rely completely upon their skills fostered during the many hours of training in the dojo.
Some of the components are hidden and are regarded as internal components, something we cannot see from the outside. If you are an expierenced practitioner and a good observer, you can see the result of the internal skill.
Internal skill is the ultimate goal for some practitioners and sometimes have a mysterious component to cover up the practitioner’s ignorance. But actually, most of these mysterious elements can be explained by comprehensible explanations.
When you use power, for the most part follows a linear vector. Yet power does not follow a strict straight line. There’s a spiral pattern based on our corporeal structures. In many scientific literature we can find: Principle of spiral arrangement of skeletal muscles of humans and animals.
This principle has an enormous effect on our movements and the management of power.
To turn an object, the force must be applied at a distance from its axis, and the greater the distance, the greater the effect of rotation or rotation.
Invoke a rotational movement into the opponent’s body is one of methods to create “kuzushi”.
Unfortunately, our movements are based on a rather complex spiral pattern of our structures for body movements and this can become a difficult task for the inexperienced practitioner. The opponent is not always willing to allow a skill that can destroy the balance. The opponent can use several moves to neutralise our attempts to “kuzushi” and perhaps take the initiative.
If our attempts fail to disrupt the balance of the opponent, there is a tendency to use muscle power to force the opponent to destabilize.
Rotational movements are experienced by the 2 persons involved:
- The one who uses spiral force to create kuzushi and performs a “waza”
- The one who receives the rotational power and loses the equilibrium
Between the 2 persons, there is a need to create “a bridge” for transfer the spiral power. Mostly during aikido practise, the arms (and hands) are used for this purpose. Sometimes, the legs can be used, eventually with the support of the arms.
The bridge between Tori and Uke
In most cases, the arms will be used to transfer spiral power into opponent’s body. Tegatana and shotei are frequently used to touch opponent’s body. Both weapons are driven by the elbow, functioned as a transfer tool for the power generated by the lower body.
The function of the elbow as a transfer tool is performed in several exercises, specially designed for that purpose. A well-known exercise is Hiriki no yosei and instructs you to move from your center and transfer power to the elbow(s).
The grabbed arm is used as a bridge for transferring power in the opponent’s body and creates “kuzushi”.
The 8 sotai dosa based upon the 5 basic arm movements, are another type of exercises to study the transfer of power throught the elbow. These exercises are a so-called “foot into the door” for kuzushi practice. Nevertheless, without an appropriate use of power, we can practice for many years without a good outcome on the resisting opponents.
How to make a bridge
Extending power through your arm without tensing up the muscles involved.
One of the difficulties during making a bridge to transfer the power from the lower body is the tension in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint. It is very difficult to change the habit of shoulder tension. One of the exercises to get rid of this tension is to practise “ritsuzen” with the arm at the height of approximal the “kyokotsu” or the lower part of the sternum. Basically it is a practise for the mind, because our focused thoughts can make the shoulders more flexible.
Starter and distribution engines: Koshi and Kyokotsu
Our body has to move in such a way that the part of the body that is in motion is being driven by the body part which moved just before it. That way we create a wave of energy up our body. The lower half of our body should therefore always move a fraction of second before our upper half.
We have two engines that can operate in an independent fashion. The former is the main engine of our body which is our “Koshi Engine” powered by the use of the “tanden”. The second, our “Kyokotsu engine” acts as the distribution center for the lower body power.
The knees act as a transfer system for absorption and power transmission, from feet to Koshi or from Koshi to feet.
In the case of our Kyokotsu motor, the elbows serve as a transfer system, from kyokotsu to hands or hands to kyokotsu.
Even though we may be generating a high level of tension across our muscles, tendons and fascia, our body and joints must still be relaxed enough so that they are free to rotate.
To recall, the central axis of the body serves as the main vertical axis of the rotation of the main body. The length axis of the arms (and in lesser mode the legs) acts as the rotating axis to transport the power.